Caramel Mud Cake with Salted Caramel Drip

My little sister was recently married in a beautiful ceremony on the north coast of NSW. In typical style for us, the entire family (and one Kitchenaid mixer) traveled up for the festival of Danielle and Brian (pronounced Bree-an. He's English). I love a good family party but for outsiders things can be loud. We have a shouty kind of love. We laugh loudly, give each other our opinions, solicited or not, we love to cook, drink, dance and argue. 

It turns out Brian's family do too. So when the UK contingent joined forces with our crew, a very fun wedding was had. It was even more special because it was the first time that many of them had met Dani and Brian's baby son, Michal (Mik-ahl. Don't call him Moo Cow. Only my 4-year-old can get away with that).

There is no other day quite like your wedding day. You and your partner have all of your very best people in the same room at the same time, all there for you both. You look incredible, you are deeply in love and there is a huge party with fabulous wine, food and dancing. It's the best. The only thing not in abundance is time. You want to slow everything down so you can savor and remember every detail. Every married couple I know says that after months of planning, the actual wedding day, particularly the reception, goes by in a blink.

With this in mind, I can give Dani two small pieces of her wedding to keep. The recipe for the base layer of her wedding cake, a caramel mud filled with caramel buttercream and salted caramel, and my speech.

Thank you again Dani and Brian for a beautiful day and a fun party (my feet were happy-broken after all the dancing).


"There is an undeniable bond in life that comes only through sharing parents.  You could be a twin or separated by a decade like Danielle and I, but if you are raised by the same people you tend to view life through a similar lens. Your core values are often aligned. Your sense of humour is fed and wholly understood by your siblings, no matter how odd it may seem to others. You get up to similar mischief. And into adulthood, you come to know, love, often laugh at, and occasionally judge your parents through the unique perspective that only you and your siblings have. You grow to become...allies.
Allies we are, definitely, and also best mates. But it must have been tough for Dani growing up, because from the day she was born and me and my year 6 friends piled into the hospital to meet her, she had to put up with me as a quasi-mother figure telling her what to do. I like to think this is why she is so bolshy. She learnt very early on to tell Gen Xers exactly where to go.
It’s no wonder I was overstepping the mark though. I was changing nappies as an 11-year-old! It was every little girl’s dream. I had a real, live baby to mother! It was only at the 875th time playing tea parties that the novelty began to wane slightly. Little did I know these early tea party events were all part of a larger plan for our Bearlette.

She has always been a people person - like, no one escaped those tea parties. I remember her clomping around in Mum's heels with a mobile phone to her ear bossing pretend people around as a three-year-old. This, I now recognise as another glimpse into the future. She really has combined bossing people around and a career in events quite seamlessly.

It was that or fashion. Dani loves her clothes. You’d think she’d wear more of them considering... Or maybe acting. At 17 there was a brief dalliance as a suburban Shakespearean heroine when, coming home from a large night, she decided to take advantage of the fact that Aunty Carol was living about halfway up Mum’s street. Unbeknown to Aunty Caz, Dani crept in at an indecent hour and had her then boyfriend, the famously big nosed and excellently named Gonzo, concealed in the bedroom. But in the morning, with Aunty Carol approaching down the hall, she stealthily shoved Romeo out the window to avoid detection. She would’ve got away with it had Mum not been walking up the driveway and saw the whole thing, complete with Romeo struggling out of the bushes.

A roll not many people foresaw so soon in the mix is her most recent one as a mummy herself. Now, this is a young woman who sees parking signs and speed limits as vague suggestions, this is a lady who has actual conversations with her wardrobe items – would you like to come out tonight, well I don’t think so with that stain – sniff sniff, hmmm well it might be dark there, and this is a woman who sees 9am - the start of the work day for many of us - as a moving target. A few people, and I’m not going to name names, might have thought that an events professional planning their own big event announcing that they were pregnant a week after mailing out invitations was...pretty funny. So we knew we were in for some cracking baby brain moments.

My favourite was when, at about 7 months pregnant in the middle of summer, she woke up in a sweat and decided to drive to Mum’s where she could sleep in the air-conditioning. But on the way there, she noticed that the petrol gauge was low. Actually, it was flashing empty. Dani reacts in a classic Dani way and assesses her outfit. It’s a nightie and thongs. No, she thinks, I can make it! Except she doesn’t. She runs out of petrol at 2am and has to call Brian to come and get her and drive her the remaining 3 kilometres to mum's.

Maybe it’s another dig at the smashed avocado generation, but having a baby means getting on first terms with adulting. I was there with my hands out if I needed to catch her.

I didn’t. She is a great mum and Brian is a wonderful dad. They are taking it all in their stride, the sleep deprivation, the work juggle, even the sheer daily grind of preparing something for dinner. There is nothing like the joy of starting a family and I am so thrilled and excited and proud of her. Of them both. It has been a special kind of happy seeing my children hold Michal in their arms and I look forward to many years of them playing together before my children lead hers astray.

Now she is a wife. What a big year she’s having! I was kind of relieved about Michal’s arrival because it completely distracted her from any kind of Bridezilla behaviour. She was on fire in the beginning; sent Pinterest into a total meltdown. It’s kind of a blur now but it went something like this for me:
D: Ok I want red but this really obscure red, like a raspberry but more a burgundy kind of plum claret
Me: Ok
D: And you can’t cut your hair, I don’t want it changed. Nothing can change!
Me: Ok
Then, a couple of months later, pretty much straight after buying her dress, she tells me to sit down.
I’m pregnant, she says.

Such self insight. Kind of like when she agreed to go camping with Brian on their babymoon at the height of summer when seven months pregnant. Not one tent was touched, let alone put up or slept in during the whole trip.

Jokes aside, it is a beautiful thing to witness somebody you love coming of age, stretching their talent legs, becoming comfortable in their own skin, really living and contributing to the world.

Dani, my fellow bibliophile, judgy-pants, lover of shoes and caller of bullshit, I am so lucky to have you as my sister and friend. Kinda wish you were an events stylist when I got married but hey... I love you, I love that we get each other in a way that only siblings will understand, and I couldn't be prouder of you today.

If I can give you some wise words from world-renowned couples therapist, Esther Perel, most women will have three pivotal relationships in adulthood and, for many, all three will be with the same partner. 

I see the truth in these words in so many guises. Marriage is an evolving thing, a slow-burn, a friendship, a partnership, a pact. It is you two against the world, and if you face the future with your hands held, with honesty and respect for each other, and with an open heart, you will weather whatever comes. You will weather it together.

I wish you and Brian a long and happy life together."

Caramel Mud Cake with Salted Caramel Drip
(Serves 16-20)

* You will need three 20cm cake tins for this recipe

400g quality white chocolate, chopped 
370g butter, chopped
2 cups brown sugar
160g golden syrup
2 cups milk
550g plain flour
150g self-raising flour
4 eggs, lightly beaten

Heat oven to 160C. Grease three 20cm cake tins and line each with non-stick baking paper. 
Place white chocolate, butter, brown sugar, golden syrup and milk in a large saucepan and stir over medium/low heat until chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Set aside to cool for 30 mins.
Sift flours into a large mixing bowl and whisk in the melted white chocolate mixture, followed by eggs.
Pour batter evenly into your three prepared cake tins, filling each to 3/4 mark.
Bake for appx 25-30 mins until light golden and a skewer comes out clean.
Cool cakes in tins. 
When cold, turn out onto racks. Trim each cake so that each is flat. (Reserve the off-cuts for cups of tea or freeze for later to make decadent little trifles - layer off-cuts in glasses, soak with butterscotch schnapps and top with grilled peaches, whipped cream, caramel and toasted macadamias or toasted coconut marshmallows.)
To assemble the cake, turn each layer upside down so the bottom smooth side is facing up. Place one layer on a cake board or serving plate. For ease of evenly spreading icing, place the cake board or serving plate on a cake turn-table if you have one (you can find them at cake decorating and department stores or kitchenware stores like Victoria's Basement). 
Top with a layer of caramel buttercream, smooth to the edges with an offset spatula (pallet knife) then drizzle generously with salted caramel. Repeat with middle layer. For final layer, place the upside down cake on top and cover cake all over with caramel buttercream. To achieve a smooth semi-naked finish, take a cake scraper (or cheap plastic bricky's trowel like I use) and hold it against the edge of the cake while spinning the cake turntable. Place the cake in the fridge for at least 10 mins. 
To finish the cake with a caramel drip, warm the remaining salted caramel in 10 sec bursts in a microwave until you have it moving in a thick syrup but not runny. You're aiming for a lazy drizzle. If it is too hot and runny, it will melt the buttercream and run onto the cake board. Pour the caramel on top of the cake while spinning the turntable and gently coax it to the edges with an offset spatula so that it drips over and down the sides like a cake in a Little Golden Book picnic.

Salted Caramel

175g caster sugar
125g butter, chopped
1/2 cup double cream
1/2 teaspoon salt

Place sugar in a saucepan on medium/high heat and cook without stirring (swirl it around the pan as it begins to melt) until entirely melted. Do not leave the mixture unattended, it can burn very quickly. When the mixture begins to bubble, take off the heat and add the butter, cream and salt and stir until smooth. Set aside until cool and store in an airtight container in the fridge until needed. 

Caramel Buttercream

250g unsalted butter, softened
1 cup icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup salted caramel, at room temperature (recipe above)

Place butter, icing sugar and vanilla in bowl of electric mixer and beat until very pale and creamy (8-10 mins). Scrape down the sides of the bowl every now and then to ensure all incorporated. Turn mixer speed to low and add the caramel, stir until all mixed in and icing is fluffy and spreadable. Add more or less caramel to suit your taste.  


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